On the heels of the shooting of an Italian journalist, and already facing deep domestic opposition to the war in Iraq, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, “one of President Bush’s few close allies,” said he will seek to begin withdrawing Italy’s forces.
- “I’ve spoken about it with Tony Blair, and it’s the public opinion of our countries that expects this decision,” Mr. Berlusconi said in the talk show “Porta a Porta,” referring to the British prime minister, who faces similar public disenchantment for his support of the war. “We have to build an exit strategy.”
Militarily, the withdrawal won’t amount to much, but the fig leaf of an international coalition supporting Bush’s war on Iraq is crumbling away. Italy has 3,000 troops in Iraq. “Britain, with 8,000 troops, the second largest contingent in Iraq after the United States’ 150,000, has not announced any withdrawal date. But Poland, another important European ally, has announced it will withdraw several hundred of its 1,700 troops in July with the intent of leaving entirely around the start of the new year. The Netherlands and Ukraine have both begun withdrawing their combined 2,900 troops or plan to do so.”